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California governor declares state of emergency due to Los Angeles area natural gas leak

By Doug G. Ware   |   Jan. 6, 2016 at 9:06 PM

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday declared a formal state of emergency due to a massive leak of natural gas that has been emitting for more than two months.

The leak occurred at a natural gas field near Los Angeles on Oct. 23, officials said, and has been steadily leaking ever since. Officials are concerned about potential dangers involved with such a leak of methane gas.

"Today's proclamation builds on months of regulatory and oversight actions from seven state agencies mobilized to protect public health, oversee Southern California Gas Company's actions to stop the leak, track methane emissions, ensure worker safety, safeguard energy reliability and address any other problems stemming from the leak," Brown's office said in a news release Wednesday.

The declaration makes the state eligible for additional resources that can help mitigate the danger.

Brown said several state agencies are working on the problem and monitoring what utility companies are doing to fix it.

The declaration Wednesday puts into action four specific efforts to handle the leak -- sealing it, ensuring public safety and health, ensuring accountability and strengthening oversight.

Hundreds of residents have been displaced since the leak began, officials said, and Brown acknowledged that the long duration of the leak required action.

A sulfur-like smell, which always accompanies methane, has permeated nearby neighborhoods and led some residents to feel a variety of adverse physical effects, like nausea and headaches. Health officials, though, have said the effects of the leak pose no long-term risk to residents.

The primary utility, Southern California Gas, has said the leak likely won't be sealed until late February, at the earliest.

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